The next-generation Internet proved the perfect virtual sandbox for developing a video game completed this week by students from eight universities in four countries.
The game, "Descent to the Underworld" re-imagines the Orpheus myth in settings designed by the students, who live in Philadelphia, Beijing, Brazil and Prague. Producer Nora Barry, a filmmaker who led the project, calls the hybrid a "game-film." Players don't accumulate points. Instead, the player's moves create a story that is retold in scenes filmed or animated by the students.
The students collaborated using the nonprofit Internet2 network, which delivers data transfer speeds of at least 100 megabits per second to the desktops of users at universities, corporations and other institutions in the United States and abroad. The network's backbones operate at between 2.4 gigabits per second and 10 Gbps.
President Constantine Papadakis of Drexel University, one of the eight schools involved in the video game project, said he hopes similar uses of the network will continue.
"This is an outlet for students of higher capability, higher energy, who sometimes have problems in an environment that's designed for the average student," he said.
The students who produced "Descent to the Underworld" worked in three teams for 12 weeks.
A team from the University of Washington and Tsinghua University in Beijing set the story in sixth century China, juxtaposing computer-generated images and hand-drawn illustrations. They met when it was night in Seattle and morning in Beijing. Other student teams created the music and sound effects.